Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

1

still separable, and, in that case, present shades of distinction. He was bred well' alludes to the mode of training; 'He was wellbred' signifies that he behaved properly at some past period. Almost all the compounds of old English monosyllables may be so separated, but this is not the place for that sort of investigation.

In the seventh century, when small letters were first introduced, the transcribers of manuscripts no longer employed the uncial, or large letters, except in an ornamental form: in Titles and at the Heads, or chief divisions of works. It was hence that they received the name of CAPITALS, from the Latin caput, the head. Our present practice is to put a small capital at the beginning of every sentence, and also of every proper name, whether of persons or of things, in contradistinction to general denominations. Thus we write, the man,'' the city,'' the river,'' the mountain,' &c. with a small letter; but John,' 'London,''the Thames,' 'the Appenines,' &c. require an initial capital. Adjectives, derived from proper names, are included in the same rule, as Johnsonian, Oxonian,' Pyrenean,' 'English,' &c. The pronoun I, the interjectión O, (or Oh), and the first letter of every line in verse, are also written in Capitals; and we may

·

"

6

·

add to these, the initial of any word which we chuse particularly to distinguish.

The usage of Capitals, as above mentioned, is but of modern date; for many of our early printed works have not a single Capital except at the beginning of a new subject. At the close of the sixteenth century, when the Old English, or Black Letter, was superseded by the Roman Character, the capitals were employed almost exactly as they are now; but, before the middle of the seventeenth century, almost every noun, whether substantive or adjective, received this initial mark of distinction. The following from "Holder's Elements of Speech," printed in 1669, will serve as an example.

66

Language is a Connexion of Audible signes, the most apt and excellent in whole nature for Communication of our Thoughts and Notions by Speaking. Written Language is a description of the said Audible Signes, by Signes Visible The Elements of Language are Letters, viz. Simple discriminations of Breath or Voice, Articulated by the Organs of Speech."

This confused intermixture of Capitals and Italics was meant, at that period, to suggest the emphasis, or energy, with which the words should be spoken; but the plan proved abortive,

and has been abandoned for the last hundred years. The Germans uniformly print every substantive with a capital, a practice which, in that language, is almost indispensable, in order to distinguish between their verbs and their nouns.

In modern printing, a discourse is divided into heads, by which the uniformity of the lines is broken off, and a new line begun, preceded by a short blank. These divisions are termed PARAGRAPHS. In the early stage of the art, there were no such divisions; for the lines ran on, in an uniform length, until the discourse was closed. It was, however, found convenient to point out the several heads of the general subject; and this was done by inserting a mark (¶) at each division. These scattered black patches having a disagreeable appearance in the body of the reading, they were afterwards transferred to the margin, (where they may yet be seen in our Bibles,) and received the Greek name, PARAGRAPHS, signifying side writings. Marginal Notes were, at one period, very general, especially as Glosses on the classics, and were, sometimes, so numerous as to fill three-fourths of a page. When they were few, they were occasionally indented in the side, or placed within BRACKETS, [ ], in the body of the text. Brackets are yet in

E

use, generally for the purpose of inclosing a Note of reference.

[ocr errors]

PARENTHESES, (), are employed to include a portion of a sentence which is too directly connected with the whole to be thrown into a separate note; and, at the same time, if not so confined, might tend to embarrass the construction.

The Note of INTERROGATION (?) is an oldfashioned Q, for question; in the same way that the Latin Et (and) has been converted into &. In the present form of the Roman character, these contractions are not obvious; but in the old Italic capitals, the similarity of the ? to the Q and that of the & to the Et were sufficiently apparent. It has often been suggested that the Notes of Interrogation, and of EXCLAMATION (!), (as well as one for IRONY which is wanting), ought to be placed at the beginning rather than at the end of a sentence. In catechisms the Q precedes.

The lengths of the several pauses indicated by the COMMA (,), Semicolon (;), COLON (:), and PERIOD (.), are treated of in every Grammar; and, although authors differ on the subject, we shall not enter into the dispute; for it is only their use, in marking the subdivisions of a paragraph, with which we are here concerned. In a general view, the Period separates the Paragraph

into Sentences; the Semicolon divides a compound sentence into simple ones; and the Comma collects, into clauses, the scattered circumstances of manner, time, place, relation, &c. belonging to every verb and to every noun. When something explanatory, or illustrative, is added to a sentence, the construction of which was previously complete, the addition is preceded by a Colon. A few examples of accurate punctuation will be preferable to a multitude of Rules and Exceptions:

"Didactic works are, in general, either too laconic for the ignorant, or too garrulous for the learned; and it is, probably, impossible to satisfy both classes of readers, in the same production."

This sentence is divided into two portions (by a semicolon) which are reunited by the conjunction and. The former part gives us the choice of two assertions:

' Didactic works are too laconic for the ignorant,'-and

6

Didactic works are too garrulous for the
learned.'

Each of these is modified by the words, "in ge-
neral," which are, therefore, placed between
commas. The latter part of the sentence asserts
that, "it is, probably, impossible to satisfy both
classes of readers, in the same production." The

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »